- Author: Betsy Lunde
Thoughts while pruning roses against the fence:
I'm trying to remember why on Earth I ever planted these roses on this side fence. Here I stand, attempting to dead-head, removing the last flush of bloom this one rose (actually large green rose hips) and trying to think of a good reason to sacrifice my flesh in the pursuit of ornamental horticulture. Was it the promise of large, silvery white blossoms glistening in the sun after a dark during a dismal rainy winter? Or was it the promise of bragging about the sheer mass of dark green leaves hidden among blossoms? Or did I just fall prey to flower catalog "madness "as I and others do each winter and early spring?
At this time, bloodied and with even more tears in a favorite gardening shirt -- all shirts seem to end up as marked for gardening after the first tears and stains-- I'm convinced that this large, overgrown rambler (Rosa 'Silver Moon') hates me to touch it! It's proud that it grew 20 feet this year -- again, and wants no loving sniping from me, just admiration for another year of blooming and growing! I know I'll heal again just as I have in the past. Darn that "prickle-bush" as Bruce calls it!! It knows as do the other rambling roses in my yard that I adore them and will continue to risk flesh and clothing to make them look their best. I'm trapped in my backyard and I can't stop sniping!
- Author: Susan Christiansen
That would be ‘Sungold’ tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) in the Solano Foothills. (What an appropriate choice for our Under the Solano Sun Master Gardener blog.) Nothing tastes better than tomatoes fresh from your garden; however, some tomatoes are better than others. ‘Sungold’ tomatoes are among the most sweet, prolific, and tolerant tomatoes available.
How sweet are they? They have been compared to liquid sun, sugar candy, and gems of golden flavor. Their big fruity flavor makes them great straight from the vine, in salads, and pasta sauces (see recipe below).
The vines get huge, so allow for lots of room and extra tall tomato cages. They are the first to mature and the last to harvest, and although small, the plants produce so many that it is hard to keep up with them.
Requiring full sun, this little orange indeterminate American hybrid is disease-resistant to Fusarum wilt, Verticillum wilt, root knot nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus. They are so hearty that volunteers easily pop up in your garden. They flourish in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. Even with late rains, cold, and frost like we have had the last two seasons, ‘sungolds’ keep on producing when other tomatoes get “touchy”.
‘Sungolds” won Great First to Ripon Race of 2011 and third place out of more than one hundred tomatoes at the Morningsun Herb Farm 2010 Tomato Day. Next time you are looking for a tomato to plant, seriously consider this golden nugget.
Sungold Pasta Sauce
1 cup (or more)‘Sungold’ tomatoes cut in half
sea salt and white pepper to taste
1-2 Tbs fresh minced basil
3-4 ears of white corn with kernels removed
2-3 cloves of minced garlic (varies with your taste)
2-3 Tbs. butter
2-3 Tbs. virgin olive oil
1 cp white wine
1 lb sea scallops seared in butter
1 pound fresh pasta cooked no longer than 3 minutes
Parmesan cheese shavings
Sauté garlic in butter and olive oil. Add ‘sungolds’, corn kernels, salt, pepper, basil, and wine. Cook about two minutes. Pour on top of pasta, sea scallops, and cheese. Enjoy.
- Author: Georgia Luiz
In my small collection of hot house treasures resides a shelf of carnivorous beauties. Some generally treat them as novel annuals, but with research I have learned the seasonal rhythms of my little collection. I see that with high day and low night temperatures the Nepenthe have put out their tubby red lipped pitchers, waiting for any nosy bug to come on by and drop in, forever. The various Drosera 'sundews' reach their spatula or tentacled red leaves up towards the summer sun where their tiny hairs glisten with sweet dew drops in the morning and wrap around nomadic gnats in the evening. Standing tall and spotted, Sarrecenia, pitcher plants open their long throats, offering up a trumpet full of digestive juices that smells like honey. In their midst, strange red flowers sprout up, facing downward with the parachuted centers. And, of course, the ubiquitous Dionaea muscipula 'Venus flytrap sits in it's boggy pot with its pointy rows of teeth in a wide open smile waiting to snap shut and lock away a little winged something for noshing on later. The tiny bladderworts masquerading as fiber optic flowers stand as tall as their thready stems will allow.
This has been my spring, summer, and fall show. I know in the winter months the pitchers will dry up as their leaves go dormant, and the fly traps will wither and die down to the ground where they will snooze until the days get longer again. After all, everything in nature needs it's beauty sleep.
- Author: Riva Flexer
I’ve been walking past this Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ for at least five years now. It’s in my ‘kitchen’ raised bed, which should have become a vegetable bed, but, lacking enough sun and requiring major soil amendment, became a place to put plants that I could see from the kitchen. The pittosporum made its way there under false pretences. It’s supposed to produce sweet-smelling white flowers, but its attractive branch structure and variegated leaves are more interesting.
I’ve been pruning it back periodically, because it is really too big for the space, but my husband likes its location (hence the pruning). A few weeks ago, in a vain search for possible flower buds, I noticed that the new growth had aphids. Not only aphids, but a full complement of ants. It didn’t surprise me, but it means I will have to take some action.
Usually when there are aphids on my roses (which, in Quebec only happens in the spring), I wipe them off or remove them with a blast of water from the hose. If I feel it’s necessary, I’ll use some insecticidal soap solution, but that is rare. Of course, in California it seems as though it’s always spring, and pruning stimulates new growth. If you prune and fertilize, you’ll get lots of fresh, leggy, sweet-tasting new shoots.
So, the ants followed the honeydew trail, and they are "farming" the aphids for their that substance. They protect aphids from predators, like any good farmer, ants protect a food source, and they eat the aphid excrement. Now I have a dual problem. I’ll let you know what I do to solve it!
- Author: Mary B. Gabbard
This past Saturday with the temperature hovering near 95 degrees, I was able to complete all my errands without breaking a sweat, thanks to a very effective air conditioner in my Honda CRV. Pulling into my my driveway, I was reminded by my wilting garden, that a Honda air conditioner can only do so much. A quick check of my sprinklers revealed they weren’t working, and hadn’t been on all week. (So much for the 16 year old son as the gardener,... what do they say? “You get what you pay for...”) Anyways, what does this mean to a gardener, well, a full day of hand watering. I actually don’t mind this because it gives me a chance to see what’s going on in my garden, as well as providing some much needed “me” time. Today, as I sprayed my Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), up popped a Praying Mantis! These are my favorite insects! They have triangular-shaped heads with a compound eye on each side.
The Praying Mantis is the only insect that can turn their head a full 180 degrees. They are named for their front legs, which are bent and held together as if they are praying.
The one I saw today, was brown, although on other watering-days, (my sprinklers break a lot), I have seen beautiful green mantis. A mantis is considered a predator that will eat all kinds of insects, good and bad. Most unfortunate recipients of unwanted mantis attention are moths, crickets, grasshoppers and flies. I also search for the egg case of the Praying Mantis when I water. Females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in a small case that is typically attached to woody stems, tree branches, or as in my yard, under the eaves.